November 26, 2014

Calm, practical, orderly and considerate – Jacob Brown

Jacob Brown was born in Bucks County, Pa. in 1775. His early career was as a schoolmaster and surveyor. In 1799, he purchased a patch of land with his father in Black River County, Northern N.Y., and spent 39 years developing the town of Brownville. His prominence in the community led to a commission in the state militia as a brigadier-general. Brown was described as calm, practical, orderly and considerate. He was further described as being above average height, not always able to control his quick temper, and sometimes his determination would turn to withdrawing even in good circumstances.

When the War of 1812 started, Brown was a militia commander in northern N.Y. State. Brown managed to get more out of citizen soldiers than other militia commanders. He impressed many people with his defence of Ogdensburg, N.Y. in October 1812. He also impressed his superiors with his actions in the defence of Sackets Harbor in May 1813. His actions at Sackets Harbor led to a commission in the regular army where he was soon promoted to major-general.

In 1814, Brown was given command of the American forces along the Niagara River, known as the Left Division. On July 3, 1814, Brown and his army crossed the Niagara, captured Fort Erie, and fought the battles of Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane. At Lundy’s Lane Brown was wounded by a musket ball that passed through his right inner thigh ‘very high up.’ Shortly thereafter Brown was wounded again when he was struck on the left side. He was forced to turn command over to Brigadier-General Eleazer Ripley.

Brown spent his convalescence with friends near Buffalo, and was attended by a personal surgeon and his wife. Two weeks after being wounded he was able to walk and spent most of his time trying to gain reinforcements for the troops under siege at Fort Erie. Brown retook command of the Left Division in early September when Brigadier-General Edmund Gaines was wounded at Fort Erie.

After the war, Brown and Ripley continued their feud that emerged during the Niagara 1814 campaign. Later in life, Brown was marred by financial and physical problems. His business ventures went sour and he eventually died in 1828 at the age of 53 from a stroke.

If you want to find out more about Jacob Brown and the Niagara 1814 Campaign, there are a number of good books available. Don Graves newest book And All Their Glory Past, along with Richard Barbuto’s Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada, give a good overview of Brown and the Niagara 1814 Campaign from a British/Canadian and American perspective.

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